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Baroness Alex

Baroness Alex, Pent Judge Coordinator

This month features one of the biggest events held in Æthelmearc, The Grand Festival of the Passing of the Ice Dragon. Whether you go for the fighting, the fencing, the shopping, or just chilling out with friends, there is one thing that sets this event apart from all others: The Arts & Sciences Pentathlon, or the Pent.

For those interested in the arts and sciences of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, a visit to the Pent is a fantastic way to see what folks are interested in and how they’ve made use of what they’ve discovered. Those who enter the Pent know that their documentation, together with their creations, serves as a way to teach others about their areas of interest. But most people don’t take advantage of one of the best opportunities to teach and learn at Ice Dragon: judging!

The Gazette asked the Pent Judge Coordinator, Baroness Alexandra dei Campagnella, a few questions about judging at the Pent.

What qualifications do you need to be a judge? Anyone can be a judge. When looking for “quality judges” I look for people who can do the following: have an understanding of the item being judged and be able to understand the rubrics for that item or the general rubric for those items that do not currently have one. You need to be able to give clear thoughts and reasons for the scores you are marking and constructive comments if there is an area for improvement. Nothing hurts an entrant more than negative comments put poorly. When writing, think about how you would want someone to speak to you. Please take the time to write comments and not just numbers, it helps the entrant understand what number you picked and what they can do to improve upon that area. It is very helpful to have entered A&S before or to be active in A&S, but selection of Judges is not award-based.

What is a Rubric? A rubric is by definition: a guide listing specific criteria for grading or scoring academic papers, projects, or tests (merriam-webster.com). In the context that we use it there is a set number of areas the Judge looks at and a defined score for how the item ranks in each of these areas. To see the current rubrics, go here, and scroll down to the Kingdom of Æthelmearc A&S Rubrics.

Do you have to be a Laurel to judge? No you do not have to be a Laurel; however if you are one, please seriously consider judging, It is always nice for the entrants to have comments from the highest caliber in the arts and sciences that our Kingdom offers.

Is there a way for someone with less experience to be matched with a more experienced judge? Yes there is! We have a “shadow” a judge program, where you can be work with a Judge and go over along with them what each of the elements on the judge’s sheet is and what is important for that area. This enables a new person to ask a lot of questions and get a feel for what the Judge does and why.

How much time does it take to judge a category and just what is involved? There is no set time to allot time to allot per entry. Personally, I start with a quick look at the item, then read the documentation. After I’m done reading I compare the item to the documentation and the Rubric and start scoring on the judge’s sheet and writing comments. Some entries I go straight down the sheet, with other items I will jump around scoring the areas that strike me most. On average I spend about 15-20 minutes on an item. Some people will spend more or less depending on the documentation and item.

What is the timing/schedule? The timing is set by the Pent-coordinator and posted on the Ice Dragon Website. At this time there is a tentative schedule, but it may change depending on the number of entries, judges and space.

Why judge? I judge because I like to see what people are doing… what are the Kingdom Artisans up to? I have learned a lot from documentation that I wasn’t aware of; I’ve seen some really amazing processes for making an item; tasted some very yummy food and knock-your-socks-off beverages. The most memorable item I judged was period white face paint. I don’t remember the details of it, just that someone did it and that it was a very “wow” moment for me. The other reason I judge is to encourage people to keep going, keep digging into the documentation out there, keep digging into themselves for more ideas and to perfect what they’ve started. In my view there is no endpoint for art, it just keeps getting better and better.

There seems to be a misperception that you have to commit your entire day if you sign up to judge, and that it will all be very confusing. Don’t let the idea of judging (or entering for that matter) scare you! You are looking at each piece based on the Rubric and the documentation, you are not judging it against anything else on the table. You can also bounce thoughts off your fellow judges in the category.

If you know that you have a limited time, you can request to have only a couple items to look at, and always feel free to ask questions! I will be there all day for the judges and look forward to a fun and successful day.

This year, there are more than 20 categories.  Many judges — preferably, at least 3 per category — are needed. Having so many judges per category ensures that entrants are more likely to receive meaningful commentary on their items.  It also reduces the risk of burn-out by limiting the number of entries that have to be judged in the available timeframe. So consider signing up to judge the Pent – it will be a fun learning experience!

To volunteer to judge, use the judging registration form found here.  A list of Pent categories can be found here.

General event details can be found here.